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Jack Joseph Valenti (September 5, 1921–April 26, 2007) was a long-time president of the Motion Picture Association of America. During his 38-year tenure in the MPAA, he created the MPAA film rating system, and he was generally regarded as one of the most influential pro-copyright lobbyists in the world.

Early life

Valenti was born in Houstonmarker, Texasmarker, USA, on September 5 1921, the son of Italian immigrants. During World War II, he was a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps, flew 51 combat missions as the pilot-commander of a B-25 attack bomber and received four decorations.

Valenti was an alumnus of the University of Houstonmarker where he was awarded a B.B.A. in 1946. He later received an M.B.A. from Harvard Universitymarker. During his time at UH, Valenti worked on The Daily Cougar newspaper staff, and served as president of the university's student government. Valenti would later serve on the university's board of regents, and became the School of Communication's namesake when it was renamed to the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication in April 2008. In 2002, the university also awarded him an honorary doctorate.

In 1952, he co-founded "Weekley & Valenti", an advertising/political consulting agency.

Political career

Valenti's agency was in charge of the press during the November 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson to Dallas, Texasmarker. Following the assassination of President Kennedymarker, Valenti was present in the famous photograph of Lyndon Johnson's swearing in aboard Air Force One, and rode with the new president to Washington. He then became the first "special assistant" to Johnson's White Housemarker and lived in the White House for the first two months of Johnson's presidency. In 1964, Johnson gave Valenti the responsibility to handle relations with the Republican Congressional leadership, particularly Gerald Ford and Charles Halleck from the House and Senator Everett Dirksen.

Valenti "loved LBJ as no serf ever adored his liegemarker"; according to The American Spectator, "One old jibe has it that Valenti, a man who has kept the cowboy-bootlicking faith longer than anyone but Lady Bird and Bill Moyers, would have spun LBJ dropping the hydrogen bomb as an 'urban renewal project'."

Career in the MPAA

In 1966, Valenti, at the insistence of Universal Studios chief Lew Wasserman, and with Johnson's consent, resigned his White House commission and became the president of the Motion Picture Association of America. With Valenti's arrival in Hollywoodmarker, the pair were life-long allies, and together orchestrated and controlled how Hollywood would conduct business for the next several decades.

Movie rating system

In 1968, Valenti created the MPAA film rating system. The system initially comprised four distinct ratings: G, M, R, and X. The M rating would soon be replaced by GP, which was later changed to PG. The X rating immediately proved troublesome, since it was not trademarked and therefore was used freely by the pornography industry, with which it became most associated. Films such as Midnight Cowboy and A Clockwork Orange were assumed to be pornographic because they carried the X rating. In 1990 the NC-17 rating was introduced as a trademarked "adults only" replacement for the non-trademarked X-rating. The PG-13 rating was added in 1984 to provide a greater range of distinction for audiences.

Valenti on new technologies

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Valenti became notorious for his colorful attacks on the Sony Betamax Video Cassette Recorder , which the MPAA feared would devastate the movie industry. He famously told a congressional panel in 1982, "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."Despite Valenti's prediction, the home video market ultimately came to be the mainstay of movie studio revenues throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, until the DVD displaced the VCR in the American living room.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Jack Valenti (1991)
In 1998 Valenti lobbied for the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, arguing that copyright infringement via the Internet would severely damage the record and movie industries.

2003 screener ban injunction

In 2003, Valenti found himself at the center of the so-called screener debate, as the MPAA barred studios and many independent producers from sending screener copies of their films to critics and voters in various awards shows. Under mounting industry pressure and a court injunction [Antidote Int'l Films Inc. et al. v MPAA (Nov. 2003)], Valenti backed down in 2004, narrowly avoiding a massive and embarrassing antitrust lawsuit against the MPAA.

The Coalition of Independent Filmmakers' Jeff Levy-Hinte, IFP/Los Angeles executive director Dawn Hudson and IFP/New York executive director Michelle Byrd said in a joint statement, "By obtaining a court order to force the MPAA to lift the screener ban last December, the Coalition enabled individual distributors to determine when and in what manner to distribute promotional screeners." It was viewed as Valenti's greatest professional loss.


Valenti's salary in 2004 was reported to be $1.35 million, which made him the seventh-highest paid Washington trade group chief, according to the National Journal.

Valenti was nominated for President of the United States by the Alfalfa Club in 2004.

In August 2004, Valenti, then 82 years old, retired and was replaced by former U.S. Congressman, and Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman. The current head of the ratings system, Joan Graves, was appointed by Valenti.

Post retirement he had become involved in technology-related venture capital activities, most recently joining the Advisory Board of Legend Ventures, where he advised on media investment opportunities.

After retiring from the MPAA in 2004, Valenti became the first President of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, an organization founded by philanthropists Edward W. Scott and Adam Waldman. The founders wanted to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in its work to prevent millions of people from dying of preventable and treatable diseases each year. Under Mr. Valenti’s leadership, Friends of the Global Fight oversaw a steady increase in U.S. funding for the Global Fund, resulting in a large-scale, positive impact in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Valenti remained President of Friends of the Global Fight until his death in 2007.


He died on April 26 2007 at his home in Washington from stroke complications.


His memoirs This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House and Hollywood were published on May 15 2007, only a few weeks after his death.


In 1969, Jack Valenti received the Bronze Medallion, New York City's highest civilian honor.In 1985, Jack Valenti received the French Légion d'Honneur.

In December 2003, Valenti received the "Legend in Leadership Award" from the Chief Executive Leadership Institute of the Yale School of Managementmarker.

In June 2005, the Washington DC headquarters of the Motion Picture Association of America, was renamed the Jack Valenti Building. It is located at 888 16th St. NW, Washington DC, very close to the White House. Jack Valenti maintained an office on the 8th floor, outside the MPAA's space, until his death.

In April 2008, the University of Houstonmarker renamed their School of Communication to the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication in his honor. Valenti was one of the school's notable alumni.

Personal life

Valenti had been a long-time bachelor until, in 1962, at the age of 41, he married Mary Margaret Valenti. They had three children: John, Alexandra and Warner Bros. studio executive Courtenay Valenti. He died just before the couple celebrated their forty-fifth anniversary.

In 1964, the FBI conducted an investigation concerning whether Valenti had a sexual relationship with a male photographer. The investigation concluded that there was no evidence that Valenti was homosexual.

Books by Jack Valenti

  • Ten Heroes and Two Heroines (1957)
  • The Bitter Taste of Glory (1971)
  • A Very Human President (1976; ISBN 0-671-80834-6)
  • Protect and Defend (1992; ISBN 0-385-41735-7)
  • Speak Up With Confidence (2002; ISBN 0-7868-8750-8)
  • This Time This Place (2007; ISBN 0307346641 )


  1. Jack Valenti Testimony at 1982 House Hearing on Home Recording of Copyrighted Works
  2. An interview conducted by a GNU/Linux user from MIT
  3. Friends of the Global Fight
  4. FBI probed sexuality of LBJ aide Jack Valenti from MSNBC

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